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College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia pulls closer to top-ranked Villanova in Top 25

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Virginia has not been ranked No. 1 since Ralph Sampson patrolled the lane in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers took a step toward their first top ranking in 35 years on Monday, earning 17 of 65 first-place votes from a media panel following wins over No. 18 Clemson and No. 4 Duke.

Villanova remained at No. 1 for the fourth straight week, receiving 47 first-place votes after a pair of victories last week.

Purdue had one first-place vote and remained at No. 3, Duke did not fall back despite its loss to Virginia and Michigan State moved up a spot to round out the top 5.

The Cavaliers (20-1, 9-0) annually have one of the nation’s top defenses under coach Tony Bennett and this season has been no different.

Virginia is first nationally in scoring defense at 52.1 points allowed per game and is third in field goal percentage against, holding opponents to 37 percent.

The Cavaliers held No. 18 Clemson to 36 points — 13 in the second half — in a 25-point victory and shut down one of the nation’s top offenses in a 65-63 win over Duke, their 12th straight victory.

The Cavaliers lead the ACC by 2 1/2 games and are off to their best conference start since the Sampson-led 1980-81 team won its first 12 games. Virginia has not been ranked No. 1 since 1981-82, a team also centered by Sampson.

“There’s talent and I don’t think our players sometimes get enough credit for their talent,” Bennett said. “But there is a synergy or a chemistry that when they’re right, it’s even better.”

Virginia hosts Louisville on Wednesday and plays at Syracuse on Saturday.

Here is the full top 25:

1. Villanova (47 first-place votes)
2. Virginia (17)
3. Purdue (1)
4. Duke
5. Michigan State
6. Xavier
7. Kansas
8. Cincinnati
9. Arizona
10. Texas Tech
11. Auburn
12. Oklahoma
13. Saint Mary’s
14. Gonzaga
15. West Virginia
16. Wichita State
17. Ohio State
18. Tennessee
19. North Carolina
20. Clemson
21. Kentucky
22. Rhode Island
23. Florida
24. Michigan
25. Arizona State

STEADY BOILERMAKERS

Purdue (21-2, 10-0 Big Ten) held onto its highest ranking since 2009-10 by extending the nation’s longest winning streak.

The Boilermakers held off No. 25 Michigan 92-88, then knocked off rival Indiana 74-67 in games last week.

Purdue has won a school-record 17 straight games since suffering its lone loss, to Tennessee in the Bahamas on Nov. 22. The Boilermakers have set another school mark with 12 straight Big Ten victories and joins Virginia as the only power-five schools still unbeaten in league play.

TAR HEELS FALLING

North Carolina’s national title defense has hit some bumps in the road.

The Tar Heels went 11-2 in nonconference, but are middle of the pack in the ACC at 5-4. North Carolina (16-6) lost both of its games after moving into the top 10 last week, 80-69 to Virginia Tech and 95-91 to North Carolina State.

The rough week cost the Tar Heels in this week’s poll. They had the week’s biggest drop, falling nine spots to No. 19.

KENTUCKY’S BACK

Kentucky fell out of the poll for the first time in nearly four years last week after losses to South Carolina and Florida.

Look who’s bask.

The Wildcats (16-5, 5-3 SEC) moved back into the poll at No. 21 this week following victories over Mississippi State and No. 7 West Virginia in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Kentucky faces Vanderbilt and Missouri this week.

MOUNTAINEERS DROP

West Virginia’s loss to Kentucky wasn’t its only setback last week and it cost the Mountaineers.

West Virginia (16-5, 5-3 Big 12) fell eight spots in this week’s poll to No. 15 after dropping games to the Wildcats and TCU. The Mountaineers are in a four-way tie for second in the Big 12 with No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 12 Oklahoma and Kansas State, a game behind Kansas.

FALLING OUT

Nevada was the only team to drop out this week, falling from No. 23 after losing to Wyoming in double overtime.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.